Yesterday afternoon I was one of six foreign teachers from my University visiting a Primary School in the countryside. We represented six different countries and had been asked to give short talks to about 100 students about some aspect of our respective country's culture. I was asked to go first, and gave a ten minute Powerpoint presentation about London, complete with actions for the kids to copy for each place I talked about (cheering for Wembley Stadium, waving for the Queen, monkey impression for London Zoo, hands together praying for St. Paul's Cathedral, etc). The kids loved it and, being first, they were very focused and enthusiastic. Unfortunately, their attention wavered as the other teachers did their talks, some of which lasted up to 30 minutes or were far too complicated or wordy for the 8-11 year olds.
Outside class, the students were very outgoing and active (after a few minutes of shyness) especially when I taught them some simple magic tricks - my usual ice-breaker. It was a fun trip.
We are amidst a very busy week. Ava came back from Shenzhen yesterday so she is very busy selling her new batch of clothes. Meanwhile JD starts his third year at Kindergarten, sporting his larger uniform [left]. He hasn't been looking forward to the return after a fun-filled holiday, but has managed to avoid any tears so far. One of the things he hates most about school is the requirement to nap for an hour or so midday. At home he never has a nap, preferring to go to bed early (8.30-9.00pm) whilst Chinese kids still seem to be active after 10.00pm. It's just one of many cultural differences he has to adjust to. And for me, it's the 6-monthly Lattitude training this week plus my first week back at University, so plenty of shuttling between locations and classes.
I've spent most of this week doing demonstration classes in various Kindergartens in and around Kunming on behalf of my old employers at Robert's School. It's not really the age-group I'm best with but, as it was the same lesson six times over, it got fairly good by the end. There was a big difference in the look, resources and students' ability levels between the various schools, with the private ones in the city centre looking spotless with focused and talented students. The countryside schools, less so. It was a fascinating, if exhausting, week.
I'm not a huge fan of using technology in my lessons, especially in China where there's never a guarantee that everything will work as intended. So I do tend to rely on flashcards and the blackboard (or whiteboard) perhaps more than I should. So it was with some trepidation that I embarked on my most technically challenging lesson ever today. In preparation I had hand-drawn a simple map, photographed it and loaded it into PaintShop Pro to add colour and symbols. From there it was imported into Powerpoint to add some functionality and it was thus projected onto the wall of the classroom. I then used a magnetic toy car on the whiteboard to move around the map according to the students' instructions. Somewhat to my surprise, it all went very smoothly and the students grasped the concept very quickly, before drawing their own maps and giving each other directions in pairs. Back to cardboard and marker pens next week, however. I don't want to push my luck!
Wednesdays are my busiest day of the week, with four lessons at a Primary School in the morning and three more at a Middle School in the afternoon. I cheat a bit by planning the same lesson and then tweaking it for the different ages and abilities. Yesterday's theme was "Illnesses and cures", culminating in a doctor and patient role-play. For students who are more used to teachers' droning monologues and chanting information, they rose to the participatory challenge pretty well.
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